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ASCA Winners And What It Meant To Them

Sep 4, 2010  - Craig Lord

At a gala banquet in Indianapolis on Friday night, American Swimming Coaches Association, an organisation that has spread the art of coaching and shared its knowledge with the world through the likes of the World Clinic being organised here this week and through the FINA Development programme, honoured high achievers for their outstanding contribution to swimming. Here's a summary of what that meant to them.

ASCA Coach of the Year

Gregg Troy: After thanking his assistant coaches Martyn Wilby and Anthony Nesty and the Florida Gators team around them, Troy said: "It's never down to one person. Sometimes a coach is lucky enough to have a Ryan Lochte ... come through the programme." But rather than focus on the here and now success that won his the award, Troy reflected on the journey and the context of what sport and the disciplines therein can bring to a life, to many lives. Emphasising that he had wish to make any kind of political statement, Tory recalled Greg Burgess, Olympic silver medallist over 200 medley at the 1992 Games in Barcelona who in 1997 joined the U.S Marine Corps (later promoted to the rank of major) and is one of a handful of American Olympians to volunteer for military service. "He told me that the proudest thing he ever did was the two tours in Iraq and to come back with all his men." In the same way, said Troy, the true value of all the awards given for sporting achievement rested in "the contribution it makes to people's lives".

The Daland Award

Jim Wood: In a brief speech, and trying hard to hold back emotion, the USA Swimming president who leaves office later this month to return to full-time coaching and running swim schools, noted the 24/7 nature of dedication that he learned in part from Peter Daland, Wood said: "It means a lot to receive an honour in his name." 

In presenting the award, US head coach Mark Schubert said: This award is named after coach [Peter] Daland. He is a modest man and one of the finest coaches in history. This award goes to a man who like Daland coached from the bottom to the top ... he accepted the challenge of being the first coach to be president of USA Swimming. I don't like the we and they [coaches and officials, us and them]. They said a swimming coach could never do it, but he's done it, and he's done it as well as any man or woman ever has." 

I was privileged enough to be seated next to Daland, 1972 men's US head coach when Mark Spitz was heading to seventh heaven, and his wife Ingrid. Not an award went by, it seemed without some reference or credit being given to Daland and his impact on the lives of those who are now making an impact on the lives of swimmers and swimming. At one point, as Dave Salo thanked Daland for his guidance, Ingrid leant across and said: "Are you listening to this?" "Sure I am," said Daland, an 89-year-old mind as sharp as any in the room, and smarter for that amazing journey that by London 2012 will have stretched 64 years beyond a time when a young coach was to be found soaking up the atmosphere of the first post-war Olympics back in London 1948.

The Ousley Award

Dr Laura Cox, a molecular gene scientist at the forefront of research into finding ways to detect gene doping in sport, said: "It would be good to say that this story has a happy ending... but we are not yet at a stage where we have got a test good enough to find things we don't even know we're looking for". In her field of work, progress was measured in getting those running anti-doping services to acknowledge the level of threat and then deal with it. In the US, the journey had reached the stage where USADA had now accepts there is a problem and knows it has to do something about it.

In presenting the award, George Block, president of the World Swimming Coaches Association, said: "When I first introduced Laura to John Leonard and told him that she was looking into gene manipulation, he said to her 'are you from outer space?' In Beijing we probably swam against the first genetically manipulated athletes. She has kept us informed so that we could not be bullshitted by [anti-doping agencies]. She works in a molecular gene lab so those sitting around her tonight have probably been exposed to a horrible disease [much laughter]."

ASCA Hall of Fame - Class of 2010

Jack Bauerle set the tone when he painted his own achievements in the colours of a much wider canvas, praising those who have worked alongside him, inspired him, challenged him, taught him, laughed and cried alongside him, while thanking those, family king of all, who spend their lives in the background, largely unseen and unheard, serving as the bedrock, the support team, the constant. In the spill of the evening, the final that was lost were marked by a few undecipherable pages of a soggy notebook - apologies from me and the cup overturned to coach Bauerle for not having a quote to hand.

Bob Bowman: "I want to thank Michael Phelps for what he's done for our sport," said Bowman listing the many projects, funds and foundations born in the name of the greatest Olympian of all-time. That work included, of late, the establishment of the Level Field Fund. Among those also thanked by Bowman was Murray Stephens, founder of North Baltimore Aquatic Club. Asked to recall career highlights, he cited events down the spectrum from Phelps and outer space: winning a Big Ten Conference title had meant much to him because it reflected the thing that all coaches could appreciate: the hard work and dedication that goes into getting the best out of people no matter what standard they achieved twixt learn-to-swim and Olympic podium. "Coaching is an art," said Bowman, " and for that you need mentors." Among his: Jon Urbanchek, Paul Bergen (observation and planning); David Marsh (excellence and a 24/7 approach), Mark Schubert ("leadership of team and of me too"). Coaching was much more, he said, than yardage, strength, etc. "It's about relationships of trust and respect. It is about enriching people's lives. Relationships with parents and community." There to witness the moment were many of those he thanked, including family members.

Jerry Holtrey reserved his greatest praise for the more than 30 assistant coaches - who had worked with him down the years and provided constant enthusiasm and taught him many a lesson - and their families. Asking his own family of wife and three daughters to take a bow on his behalf, he noted the sacrifices made by those closest to men and women who are up and gone at dawn and often get home after sundown. "I worked seven days a week for three years solid after we got married and I thank my wife for her patience and support," said coach Holtrey, who wrapped up his 40th season at Hawken last winter by guiding his girls' team to their 20th overall state championship and 12th straight crown.

David Marsh: "Generally we get there because of other people," said Marsh. He recalled coach Ray Essick asking his staff to put the names of those they expected to be Olympic coaches in a time capsule way back when. Marsh had seen a gem not yet polished and wrote down the name Bob Bowman. "Through swimming," said Marsh, " I found self-esteem, excellence. I found my best friends; I found reading ... a need to search for knowledge; I found my wife...; I grew in my faith - I was relatively faithless but I found God through swimming." He dedicated his honour to the late Richard Quick. He had watched the head man at Auburn for a week as an athlete before deciding: "That's what I wanted to be: Richard Quick. I miss Richard really bad." He had three watchwords for coaches: excellence; customer service; balance (in life, for self).

David Salo: After recalling his first experiences on the road to coaching and the shock of rejection after making his first head coach job application (he was 17...), Salo caught up in time and said: "I didn't know what a great coach Peter Daland was until I got out on the deck with him. He was a master." Daland, he said, could recall splits from a swim back in 1963. But when Salo published "Sprint Salo", Daland took him aside and said: "Dave, you've got to stop printing this sprint shit'. "I didn't but it showed me that someone cared about my career. His parents cared too, and, choking back tears, Salo noted: "My mom is ill and my father can't remember who I am. But they are my pride and joy. They taught me the hard work that goes into [success], determination, passion. My dad has Alzheimer's. He used to say from time to time 'how's your team doing?' He can't do that now. But they are my heroes [his parents]. They taught me passion."